10th Friday in Ordinary Time
2 Cor. 4:7-15; Matthew 5:27-32
The final words of Jesus in this Gospel passage from Saint Matthew we have just heard take on a freshness of vigorous significance in our day. Even more, these words of our Lord have been the source of division in the Catholic Church. Some highly respected Cardinals have challenged recent teaching by Pope Francis. They respectfully, but with decided firmness, publicly insisted that the Pope clarify his recent statements concerning Catholics in second marriages. The Pope responded by assigning a certain prominent Cardinal to a position of less importance. In an article appearing in last month’s edition of The Vatican Today a prominent, learned author published an article highly critical of a number of statements in the recent Encyclical of Pope Francis. Others have expressed criticism of like kind.
This is not the first time that public differences have divided the Church of Rome. Already in the time of the apostles we find in the inspired writings of Saints Peter and Paul the need to speak out against preaching contrary to Catholic doctrine. Jesus himself, foreseeing such attacks on his Church warned his follows to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. One of the most respected voices in the American Church, Cardinal Chaput of Philadelphia, has taken a different approach: he finds no serious objections to the Pope’s Encyclical, but in his outspoken and orthodox teaching simply ignores those passages under serious attack and witnesses to the traditional Catholic teaching.
We Cistercians do well to recall how Saint Bernard served the Church at a period of passionate division. He actively defended the Pope who, he was convinced, was the legitimate head of the Church. He relied especially on his Brother, Blessed Gerard, to carry the burden of office in his prolonged absence in the service of the Church. May we make it our concern to assist the achievement of a more fervent and strong Church by our persevering fidelity to the fullness of our Lord’s teaching and example.